Consider this as a possible scenario. You are on a flight from Lisbon, Portugal to New York City and, in the dead of night over the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, the pilot’s voice on the intercom suddenly jolts you awake with these words, “Can I have your attention please. This is Captain Williams. We’re in an emergency situation. We may have to ditch.” You might be able to ditch your girlfriend, boyfriend or spouse but it’s not so easy to ditch a plane as demonstrated by the principles of Crash Landing (1958).
From the mid-fifties to the mid-sixties, if there was a dance craze or a musical trend, producer Sam Katzman was there to exploit it in low-budget B-features targeted for teenagers in saturation bookings at drive-ins and movie houses. Many of these were directed by Fred F. Sears and the plotlines were minimalistic and interchangeable from film to film but the musical acts featured were usually first rate and today serve as wonderful time capsules of their era. Rock Around the Clock (1955), showcasing rock ‘n roll pioneer Bill Haley and His Comets, was Katzman’s first major hit in this new “youth market” genre and he followed it up with Cha-Cha-Cha Boom! (1956) in order to capitalize on the current popularity of the Cuban and Latin music sweeping the nation. Continue reading
While producer Sam Katzman was busy exploiting the youth culture in the U.S. with quickie productions like Twist Around the Clock (1961) and Don’t Knock the Twist (1962), his contemporary Milton Subotsky was doing the same in England but with a different musical focus. London was in the midst of a British jazz revival driven by the music of New Orleans and Dixieland and this is the sound that inspired It’s Trad, Dad! (1962, aka Ring-a-Ding Rhythm), which also marks the feature film debut of Richard Lester, whose subsequent film was A Hard Day’s Night (1964) for The Beatles. Subotsky didn’t just stack the deck with jazz groups though; he also added a generous helping of current pop acts and even tried to scoop Katzman with showcasing Chubby Checker in the new novelty dance, the twist (Katzman still beat him to the punch with Twist Around the Clock which was released first in the U.S.). Continue reading
Movie titles can sometimes be deceptive but you know exactly what you’re in for with the aptly named Creature with the Atom Brain (1955). A superior B-horror film with sci-fi elements and a crime syndicate subplot, this 1955 Sam Katzman production gets right down to business before the opening credits even begin with the sound of a beating heart growing louder and an ominous looking figure lurching toward us from out of the dark. Continue reading